Interstitial space design in modern laboratories

Sandra L. Vondrak, David R. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Modern laboratory design and construction is becoming increasingly complex with advancements in mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and specialty system technologies. Laboratory projects often have critical schedules and rigorous maintenance and operations requirements. The use of interstitial spaces that create additional floors for mechanical systems is a design strategy that can facilitate both the construction and operation of laboratories. By providing additional space and easier access to mechanical systems, interstitial designs facilitate maintenance and reconfiguration of laboratories, thus reducing life cycle costs. Despite these and other advantages, the use of interstitial space is often eliminated as a laboratory design option due to perceptions of high first costs. This paper presents an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of interstitial space design as an alternative to traditional plenum construction. The opinions of experienced operators, designers and builders of interstitial building spaces are presented. Survey results of design and construction professionals are presented illustrating current perceptions (and misconceptions) of interstitial spaces as a design alternative for laboratories. Finally, a detailed interdisciplinary case study redesign is used to illustrate the comprehensive effects of introducing an interstitial space design in an actual modern laboratory in which a 1.6-year payback was achieved on the investment in an interstitial design alternative. The research concludes increased first costs can potentially be offset by savings in construction time, and that valuable savings in maintenance and operation costs help to justify the use of interstitial space design solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-70
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Architectural Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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